Superabundant bird decline mirrors Passenger Pigeon

Yellow-breasted Bunting male on the breeding grounds © Ulrich Schuster / Amur Bird Project

Yellow-breasted Bunting male on the breeding grounds © Ulrich Schuster / Amur Bird Project

One of the Eurasia’s most abundant bird species has declined by 90% and retracted its range by 5000km since 1980 a new study shows.

Yellow-breasted Bunting was once distributed over vast areas of Europe and Asia, its range stretching from Finland to Japan.

New research published in the journal Conservation Biology suggest that unsustainable rates of hunting principally in China have contributed to a catastrophic loss of numbers and also in the areas in which it can now be found.

“The magnitude and speed of the decline is unprecedented among birds distributed over such a large area, with the exception of the Passenger Pigeon, which went extinct in 1914 due to industrial-scale hunting”, said Dr Johannes Kamp from the University of Münster, the lead author of the paper.

High levels of hunting also appear to be responsible for the declines in Yellow-breasted Bunting.

“A Century on from America’s folly and Asia is blindly following suit, allowing a once superabundant bird to spiral into oblivion,” said Richard Thomas, OBC Council Member.

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Birding Viet Nam

The following is based on an article by OBC member Andy Mears that first appeared on the Birdguides website. Many thanks to Birdguides for granting the OBC permission to repost the article here.

Vietnam is a bird-rich country bordered by China, Laos and Cambodia and strategically placed on the OBC region’s eastern seaboard. From wintering Rufous-tailed Robins to breeding White-winged Magpies, the country has much to offer the travelling birder or interested reader.

Talk to non-birders about Vietnam and they are usually surprised to hear that it is a popular birding destination. In the same way that Ethiopia is perceived to be stark and famine-ridden, Vietnam is often viewed as war-torn and scarred. Neither perception is correct. Vietnam is in fact within an important area of endemism and retains some valuable tracts of rainforest that can easily be visited by birders today. Add to that accessible mountains and wetlands that host some of the rarest shorebirds on earth, and Vietnam becomes a stunning destination.


Vietnamese Cutia photographed in the Da Lat uplands of Southern Vietnam by BirdtourASIA tour guide James Eaton. James is a regular contributor to the OBC’s Forktail and BirdingASIA journals. BirdtourASIA is a proud corporate sponsor of the Oriental Bird Club — many thanks to James for providing photos for this article.

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Summit on songbird crisis in Asia

First announcement – details of how to register your interest below

Jurong-Bird-ParkSongbird Crisis Summit: Setting priorities to address the threat of songbird trade in the Greater Sunda region

26th-29th September 2015, Jurong Bird Park, Singapore

Songbird-keeping as a pastime is firmly entrenched in local culture and tradition in many regions of Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia has one of the highest global demands and volume of domestic and international bird trade – involving hundreds of species and thousands of individual birds. The capture for the songbird trade is recognised as the single largest threat for many species in Southeast Asia, particularly the Greater Sunda region that comprises Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. At the present time, there is a lack of regulation, monitoring and enforcement efforts of bird markets, trade routes and collection sites by the relevant authorities. There needs to be an increase in awareness of the species conservation needs’ amongst the public, government and conservation groups.

In response to this crisis, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, TRAFFIC, and Cikananga Wildlife Center, along with other international institutions, have joined forces to host Asia’s first Songbird Crisis Summit.

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Barn owl photographs sought

Moluccan Masked Owl Tyto sororcula cayelii, Buru, Maluku, Indonesia © James Eaton/Birdtour Asia

Alexandre Roulin, Professor of Biology at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland is currently writing a review of worldwide studies of barn owls, family Tytonidae, summarizing more than 3,600 published papers on the subject.

To illustrate his forthcoming book, Alexandre is seeking photographs of all Tytonidae species and subspecies, taken across the global distribution of this fascinating family.

All photographers providing images will be fully credited in the publication. Any submissions should include full details of where and when the photographs were taken, and if known (sub)specific identification.

If you would like to contribute to this project, please contact Alexandre at

Jerdon’s Babbler rediscovered in Myanmar

Jerdon’s Babbler, rediscovered in Myanmar in May 2014 © Robert Tizard / WCS

5th March 2015—Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre has been rediscovered in Myanmar by a scientific team from WCS, Myanmar’s Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division – MOECAF, and National University of Singapore (NUS).

Jerdon’s Babbler had last been seen in Myanmar in July 1941 and was considered by many to be extinct in the country.

News of the exciting rediscovery has been unveiled in the latest issue of BirdingASIA, the six-monthly journal of the Oriental Bird Club.

The printed article will be distributed to Club members, while an electronic version can be downloaded here: BirdingAsia22 pp13-15 (PDF, 50 KB)

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Forktail 30 available

Forktail30-coverOBC members should already have received Forktail 30, the latest issue of the Club’s peer-reviewed journal of Asian ornithology.

As ever, the publcation is packed with the latest ornithological papers relating to the avifauna of the Oriental region.

The full contents from each issue are posted  on the OBC website, but it’s a publication you simply can’t afford to miss: so join OBC today and you will receive two issues of BirdingASIA every year, plus once a year, Forktail, the Club’s peer-reviewed journal publishing original ornithological research from the region.

2016: visit Koko Nor, deserts, Roof of the World & SE Qinghai with OBC

Taxonomic enigma: Pink-tailed Bunting. (c) Richard Thomas

In 2016, there will be an exciting opportunity for OBC members to visit the Koko Nor, deserts, Roof of the World & SE Qinghai on an OBC on a trip led by Jesper Hornskov.

By Jesper Hornskov* ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 1st October 2014.

Situated in western China, rugged Qinghai province is the ideal place to see a mix of Central Asian specialities, Chinese / Tibetan endemics, and isolated populations of otherwise mostly Siberian species. In zoogeographic terms we will be visiting the Tibetan Plateau and the deep valleys of its eastern fringes, with the latter showing particularly strong affinities with the least accessible parts of neighbouring Sichuan, known for its avifaunally rich Panda reserves.

Unlike China’s ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ (which could remain trapped in the current unrest- and-clampdown cycle for years to come, making both Lhasa & SE Tibet chronically uncertain destinations), Qinghai – with scenery fully on par with the very best in parts of ‘geographical Tibet’ now administered by neighbouring provinces – offers excellent, reliable & (with comparatively less developed tourism) affordable access to Tibet’s array of unique birds, mammals & flora.

Full itinerary and more details (PDF, 350 KB)


BirdingASIA 21: latest issue available

BA21coverOBC members should already have received BirdingASIA 21, the latest issue of the Club’s biannual publication, BirdingASIA.

As ever, the issue is packed with the latest information and ornithological sightings from the Oriental region. It includes articles on identification of raptors, Sillem’s Mountain Finch, Sakhalin’s Leaf-warbler,  Grey-breasted Babbler, Pale-capped Pigeon and more.

The full contents and sample articles from each issue are posted here on the OBC website, but it’s a publication you simply can’t afford to miss: so join OBC today and you will receive two issues of BirdingASIA every year, plus once a year, Forktail, the Club’s peer-reviewed journal publishing original ornithological research from the region.

Jewel Hunter available from OBC

THE_JEWEL_HUNTER_cover_LRThe Jewel Hunter, Chris Goodie’s gripping tale of his quest to see every species of true pitta inside a single calendar year is now available direct from Chris, with £4 from every sale going straight to the Oriental Bird Club.

To find out more about this exciting opportunity to read about one of the world’s great birding tales, please visit the OBC publications sales page.